In Review: The X-Files #11

A perfect X-Files tale full of thrills and strangeness that will leave readers hungry for more,

The covers: Two options to capture one’s imagination this month. The interior of the comic doesn’t contain images for this month’s issue, instead accidentally reprinting Issue #10’s covers. Having purchased a physical copy and going online, I was able to find what the real covers look like. The Regular cover is by Menton3 and it’s like a lost scene from an episode. A flying saucer has crashed into a vegetative locale, mist is slightly obscuring the bottom of the image. Silhouettes of three soldiers approaching the UFO are seen at the bottom, as is this issue’s title in the iconic X-Files font, “Contrarians” Part 2. Excellent cover. The Photo Cover features William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man. This cover is startling because it shows the iconic antagonist in his most recent appearance from the last six episode season. He continues to look absolutely threatening. One to track down, if one can handle looking upon his visage. Overall grades: Regular A and Photo Cover A+

The story: This is the second and final chapter of “Contrarians” by Joe Harris and it doesn’t require reading of the first installment for a reader to enjoy this tale. Bluefields, Nicaragua, 1987, William “Bill” Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man banter while they lead a group of armed men through a green field and into the mountains. Two of the men are carrying a large crate. One loses hold and it falls to the ground with a WHUMP. The CSM says, “You’d better be careful with that, soldier. War might be winding down in Nicaragua, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of things to be blown up,” and he tosses his lit cigarette at the box. Their conversation resumed, CSM asks after Bill’s boy, Fox. He’s told he should be proud of his son, but Bill believes, “It’s only a matter of time before he starts putting two and two together. I won’t be able to shield him from the truth much longer.” Their dialogue quickly turns nasty, however both are silenced by their arrival at their destination: a large, moss covered UFO. Shifting to the present, Fox has unwelcome visitor in his back seat, whose speech makes him very different from others. If you haven’t treated yourself to a Joe Harris penned X-Files’ tale, you’re missing out. Several people have written the adventures of Mulder and Scully but no one has been more adept at capturing the characters’ voices, the mystery, the tension, the strangeness of this franchise’s comic book adventures like he has. If Harris were to have an issue with two characters just facing each other and talking, I’m sure it would be the most tense story I’ve ever read. This issue has Fox going on a journey with a stranger that leads him into all sorts of trouble, an area he’s familiar with, and there’s an incredible flashback story of Bill Mulder and the CSM focusing on what they did in Nicaragua, and how it all went wrong. Using a flashback provides needed backstory for what’s happening with Fox, but also provides incredibly entertaining moments with the elder Mulder and CSM. The conclusion of Fox’s plight is pure X-Files and the final page is a perfect scream of a revelation. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: This books looks like a missing episode of The X-Files. Greg Scott does the visuals and they look great. The book opens with a terrific establishment shot of the South American settings, slowly panning down to the trail of men making their way. The perspective swings about to the front of the line where Bill is wiping his brow (showing how intensive their journey is), while in front of him the Cigarette Smoking Man lights up another cancer stick. The focus then falls upon the later as he makes an ominous statement. This first page establishes the settings and the characters strongly. All too often, some artists overuse characters in silhouette, but in The X-Files it’s a necessity and Scott does it exceedingly well, as the second page demonstrates, with the soldiers having issues with the crate. I really like how after the CSM tosses his cigarette at the men, the follow up panel has his face in the dark, showing the reader that the character’s shady nature exists long after his confrontational actions. The reveal on 4 is excellent, while the character who appears alongside the story’s title is beautifully frightening. Fox’s scenes move about like an episode, with the point of view shifting from what Fox can see in his back seat, to what his unwelcome companion sees. The final location of Fox’s tale is a common setting for many of the program’s episodes, but Scott brings it life handsomely. Pages 17 and 18 contain some magic moments that showcase the story’s climax, but it’s the final page that left me screaming. Scott’s visuals had me shocked at who was being shown, with the attitude of this new character in the third panel leaping off the page, increasing the tension of the text. Yeah, I’d be more than welcome to see Scott continue with this series. Overall grade: A+

The colors: When the story is in the flashbacks, the colors, by Wes Dzioba, become various shades of peru or burlywood (Yes, I looked them up to find the closest match) to give the reader a visual cue when the past is being shown. This isn’t just a blanket coloring job, there are several subtle shades done to provide the perfect perspective to each panel. When the story shifts to the present it’s almost jarring with the bright colors. Sounds are give some nice pop with their bright hues and the unwelcome visitor that’s with Mulder has a special color done to his dialogue balloon to make him even more of an outsider. Excellent work by Dzioba. Overall grade: A

The letters: The iconic font for X-Files’ settings, dialogue, sounds, the story’s title, a slight differentiation for the speech of Fox’s friend, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by Robbie Robbins. Using the series’ look for scene settings allows a reader to comfortably fall into the story and each sound enhances the tale well. Robbins is acing every piece of text he inserts onto the page. Overall grade: A

The final line: I defy any fan not to hear Mark Snow’s haunting theme music at the end of this issue. It’s a perfect X-Files tale full of thrills and strangeness that will leave readers hungry for more, but afraid of what it might reveal. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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